Presented by Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage)
I’m Representative Chris Tuck, Leader of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition. I am speaking on behalf of the Coalition and the Alaska Senate Democrats.
Thank you for spending part of your evening with us. Together, we are standing up for Alaskans. We know how trying these times can be. To rush out the door, to get the kids to school, to work hard every day, and to live within your budget only to come home, turn on the evening news and hear the Governor talk of capping your Permanent Fund Dividend, imposing an income or a sales tax, and making dangerous cuts to eliminate Pre-K and early education.
We understand your frustration and worries. The continued drop in oil prices, broken promises of increased oil production, and a failure to properly prepare for these factors has resulted in what is obviously a fiscal crisis. These are critical times. And now Republican lawmakers are working on their own plan for taxes and cuts.
The decisions we make during this session can either grow or hurt the economy. As we consider these proposals we insist that any solution be fair for working Alaskans, the elderly, and our most vulnerable residents. We also insist that any solutions do not cater to the wishes of special interests, mega-corporations, and moneyed interests. The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition and the Senate Democrats are committed to finding more efficient ways to deliver vital state services without harming the overall economy.
There are certain aspects of state government that must not be harmed as we seek a solution. That includes our public education system. We can’t place the burden of fixing our problems on the backs of schools, teachers and children. We are committed to educational opportunities from Pre-K and early learning all the way up through the University of Alaska. The first 5-years of a child’s life are the most crucial. Investing in Parents as Teachers, Best Beginnings, and Pre-K provide the best bang for the buck for our education dollars. We need a vibrant and efficient University system, which is our center for research, and an incubator for innovation and new industries. We must expand vocational and technical educational opportunities for Alaskans. Studies show that the best way to improve economic standing is through education. Good jobs require a good education and a good education can create good jobs.
We believe in Alaska and its great potential. We have an abundance of natural resources and talented people. We want to make Alaska a place where innovation and ideas flourish, education is the highest quality, and our resources are put to good use. As a result, the economy will thrive and good jobs will be plentiful.
Governor Walker has courageously put forward a fiscal plan. It’s a starting point, but it needs a lot of work because it unfairly burdens some Alaskans while protecting special interests. To fix this, we need to put aside party politics and work together. We need to go back to the days when being a Republican or a Democrat didn’t matter. When we all pulled together and did what was best for Alaska.
Significant steps need to happen this session. We can’t delay in making these tough decisions. If we are to realize any returns in the future, we must make wise investments today. A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman thinks of the next generation. Now is the time for every lawmaker to be a statesman. So let us all come together and do what is best for Alaska.
I assure you we are dedicated to solving the fiscal problems of the state. We are ready to get to work but we need your help. Wise decision making demands that we listen to you. Please speak out and participate in the public process. We are listening. If you speak up loud enough and often enough, the majorities in the Alaska Legislature will be forced to listen too.
As we work through these challenging times, we take comfort in the spirit of Alaska. Hard work, dedication, and the will to succeed. I am reminded of the challenges faced by Alaska’s First People. How they continue to overcome using the spirit of togetherness. It is in this same spirit that the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition and the Alaska Senate Democrats look forward to working together with Governor Walker and the Republican Majorities to build a better and brighter future for all of Alaska.